New limit values for ergot alkaloids and ergot sclerotia

Ergot alkaloids are metabolic products of certain fungi such as Claviceps purpurea. The mycotoxins, also known as ergot alkaloids, are contained in the elongated, grain-like, dark ergot sclerotia that grow out of the ears of cereal crops and represent a permanent form of the fungus. Rye is particularly frequently affected. [1]

Depending on the dose, the alkaloids can result in various health impairments. Acute symptoms such as nausea, headache, abdominal pain and cardiovascular problems may occur after ingestion, and at higher doses circulatory disorders and respiratory or cardiac arrest. In the case of chronic intake, negative effects on reproduction have been documented. [1]

Regulation (EC) No. 1881/2006 previously only prescribed a maximum level for ergot sclerotia in unprocessed cereals, except maize and rice. With Regulation (EU) 2021/1399, which amends Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006, this has now been lowered. For unprocessed rye, this will follow in July 2024. In addition, the amending regulation adds maximum levels for ergot alkaloids for certain food categories for the first time. These include ground rye products, ground products made from barley, wheat, spelt and oats, as well as wheat gluten and processed cereal-based foods for infants and young children. The amendments apply from 01 January 2022. Food lawfully placed on the market before this date may remain on the market until the end of the minimum durability or use-by date. [2,3]

By means of LC-MS/MS, the twelve most frequently occurring ergot alkaloids that are included in the highest content-relevant sum can be determined.


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[1] https://www.bfr.bund.de/de/fragen_und_antworten_zu_ergotalkaloiden_in_getreideerzeugnissen-188362.html

[2] https://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2006:364:0005:0024:DE:PDF

[3] https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/DE/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32021R1399&from=DE